Written by Luke Vanbuskirk
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Student Chapter at Oregon State University went camping in the Mt. Hood National Forest (NF) and worked with the Clackamas Ranger District this May. Surrounded by Pacific silver fir, mountain hemlock and sword fern, the students were setup at Lost Creek Campground Near Zigzag, Oregon and experienced firsthand all that the PNW spring had to offer. Soggy sleeping bags, socks, and all! 13 students packed into a welcoming, warm, and dry van to Ripplebrook Guard Station on Saturday to meet up with Forest Service staff, Phill Monsanto – Timber Program Manager, Cara Lewis – Special Forest Products Coordinator, and Lin Kyan – Forest Botanist. Thankfully the sun came out and the students spent the day drying and learning about invasive plant species removal, post-2020-fire restoration efforts including a new pollinator garden, and special forest products (aka non-timber products).
The morning was spent in hands-on learning. Stewardship work with Lin Kyan included a little planting and pulling. The restoration species of the day was Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis), planted within a small, burned area of Ripplebrook to build up the forest edge understory and support the nearby pollinator garden. A stone’s throw away, students were working hard with some weed wrenches and good old hand-pulling to remove Scotch broom. Lunch provided some time to refuel and quality time to get to know the Forest Service representatives and their unique professional journeys to their current positions and focus.
Cara Lewis then rounded out the day sharing all about special forest products, how they are managed, permitted for the public, and how product availability and access are marketed. Products included the more commonly known resources like Christmas trees, mushrooms, and firewood, as well as the less commonly known products like florist cuttings, transplants, medicinals, and fencing and posts. The most surprising component to this market, is that it is still expanding. The latest potential forest product is biochar.
The Forest Service crew shared the inspirational work and dedication that their District holds to help restore the forest post wildfire. A daunting task after having experienced the loss of work completed, and then to start all over with the knowledge that they may not see the forest fully recover before the end of their service. It was thoughts like this our Forest Service representatives shared to provide a fulfilling experience for all the members of the student chapter connecting with them and a unique patch of land. The resiliency of the forest and the people that work with this land despite the impact of the 2020 wildfires over 112,000 acres of N.F. (and over 1,000,000 acres across NW Oregon) is amazing. One could see the passion that fuels the work, giving back to the understory in an early seral landscape. The benefits of giving back to the understory will help rejuvenate the ability for more opportunities to arise in special products management and the Student Chapter looks forward to continuing to help the Forest Service in this recovery effort.